Official speeches and statements - September 29, 2020
When presenting her policy priorities to the European Parliament on 16 July 2019, the President of the European Commission announced her intention to put forward a European Democracy Action Plan, in order to protect our democratic systems and institutions from any external intervention. Cyberattacks and disinformation, which have become increasingly destructive and frequent, as the COVID-19 crisis showed, are a threat to democracy and social cohesion because of their influence on public debate, on public policies and on election campaigns. At the initiative of the European Commission, a Code of Practice was adopted and a European election cooperation network was created in 2018 in order to enable national authorities to swiftly detect threats to the elections to the European Parliament, to exchange information and to implement a coordinated response. We, as European democracies, should go further.
France, Lithuania and Latvia recommend that the European Democracy Action Plan include the following measures.
Firstly, we need to ensure the security of our electoral processes, at both European and national levels, and guarantee the integrity of election results. The security of national elections is common challenge for European Union democracies. It requires both coordination, complementarity and solidarity. Based on the model of Frontex, RescEU or PESCO project on cyber rapid response teams, a joint election protection mechanism could establish a reserve of national experts who could be called up to help any Member State requesting support to protect its election system from attacks. This essential protection needs to be provided by European countries themselves. The aim of this joint mechanism would be as follows: a preventive aspect, based on Member States request, to identify attempts to destabilize electoral processes; and a feedback aspect within the cooperation network on elections on the most effective forms of action and sharing of best practices.
We also need to strengthen our resilience against disinformation. In the context of elections, it can undermine the turnout and confidence in the election process, as well as the legitimacy and trust in national and EU institutions. Information is also a common good on which the quality of public debate depends. In this area the European institutions already have set up tools: the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, Stratcom task forces’ activities, the EUvsDisinfo initiative, the European Action Plan against Disinformation and the creation of the Rapid Alert System.
While the role of civil society as well as independent and plural media remains central to ensuring the resilience of our democracies, it is also essential to create more robust public action tools of a regulatory nature to address disinformation, including but not limited to the context of elections. In the spirit of the self-regulatory Code of Practice on Disinformation, which was the first EU-wide effort to tackle online disinformation, the EU should take further steps towards accountability and transparency for online platforms in addressing disinformation.
These steps should be based on the primacy of fundamental rights. EU should establish a regulatory framework with common standards and obligations for online platforms, along with enforcement mechanisms, in several important areas. These areas include, inter alia, minimum level of capabilities and tools necessary to combat disinformation campaigns online; effective GDPR-compliant sharing of relevant data with independent researchers and fact-checkers; full transparency of online paid political speech, including political advertising and means for targeting; basic standards for social responsibility in algorithmic design; prevention of unjustified and non-transparent content takedowns, which can only be provided by offering transparency on all takedowns, suspensions and redresses.
Lastly, the funding of European political parties is subject to specific rules and governance, but this is not enough to protect the life of our democracies from external influences. In spite of the ban on European political parties receiving funding from outside the European Union, there are still loopholes in our regulation, in particular regarding indirect funding. We call for a necessary revision of Regulation 1141/2014 on the statute and funding of European political parties to prohibit not only direct funding of European parties through foreign interests but also indirect foreign funding of them (through national parties or private donations). This revision should come into force before the next European elections in 2024.
Democracy rests on trust, which itself builds on fairness and transparency. Those foundations need to be upheld by strong actions and measures against any attempt to undermine them.
France, Lithuania and Latvia firmly believe that, as the European and domestic political spaces become ever more intertwined, it is now for the EU to take action.
Emmanuel Macron, President, French Republic
Gitanas Nausėda, President, Republic of Lithuania
Arturs Krisjānis Kariņs, Prime Minister, Republic of Latvia ./.
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The pandemic crisis we are experiencing has exacerbated some of the greatest challenges of the "world of before": inequalities, food insecurity, and the balance of our societies. It has also drained the life-force of our trade and our economies. In so doing, it has led to immense financing needs worldwide. As the recovery is prepared, we need to be sure to make the right choices. The face of the "world of after" depends on those choices directly.
In each of our countries, we need to opt for a sustainable recovery. Nothing would be worse than to sacrifice, as we respond to the urgency of the moment, the no-less-pressing need to fulfil the commitments made under the 2030 agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. That would be a disastrous regression, just as we must absolutely move forward.
How? By encouraging low-carbon, sustainable development strategies; by improving the transparency of all sources of finance and aligning them with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and by working to build inclusive, resilient societies.
We must also, this time at the scale of the international community, need to opt for an inclusive recovery. At the height of the crisis, France worked within the G20 and the Paris Club to ensure that the most vulnerable countries could benefit from a moratorium on the service of their public debt. What was at stake was their capacity to invest more in their healthcare systems and support their economies in the emergency. We must not bury our head in the sand: this moratorium remains necessary and must be extended beyond 2020. We also need to establish a more structural approach to address, in a multilateral framework and on a case-by-case basis, the financing needs of the countries concerned. And private creditors will have to play a full role in this collective effort.
At the same time, for the pandemic is far from behind us, we also need to invest together to foster the development and production of tests, treatments and vaccines. And, equally important, we need to guarantee that everyone has access to these new common public goods, for that is what they are. That is the purpose of the ACT-A initiative, which we launched in spring with some of you.
Lastly, the countries with the resources to do so must do more when it comes to official development assistance (ODA). For in a world woven with interdependencies, they will, as they help their developing partners, also be helping themselves. That, too, is part of an inclusive recovery. And France has understood, committing to bring its ODA up to 0.55% of its gross national income by 2022.
Today’s challenges are shared challenges. The COVID-19 crisis has reminded us of that, quite spectacularly. It is up to us to learn all its lessons, so that together, in the months and years to come, we can find collective and concerted solutions, meaning effective solutions. It is up to us, my dear friends, to make the right choices now to build a "world of after" that is more inclusive and genuinely sustainable.
3. European affairs - Brexit - Interview given by Clément Beaune, Minister of State for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to the daily newspaper Les Echos - excerpt (Paris, 28/09/2020)
A - If there is still a chance to reach an agreement we must seize it; that’s the best scenario. But in order to do so we need reciprocal goodwill and openness. We still believe in that. We haven’t left the negotiation table, despite the tensions of recent days caused by the House of Commons vote on the UK internal market, which goes back on the withdrawal agreement already signed. We’re demanding an amendment to or the withdrawal of this bill, because you can’t build the future relationship without a serious guarantee about full compliance with the withdrawal agreement. The European Parliament has been clear in indicating that if that weren’t the case, it wouldn’t vote for the agreement on the future relationship. We’re being neither naïve nor passive...
Is there still enough time to reach an ambitious agreement?
A - Yes, there’s still time between now and the end of the year. There were some weeks of technical negotiations on many issues. Regarding fisheries, I repeat that this is a priority and there will be no separate agreement on the issue: it’s not an adjustment variable. The British say they’ve understood that, but in practice it isn’t reflected in their demands. The path to division in Europe doesn’t exist, even if some people in London are tempted to look for it.
How would you rate the chances of an agreement, on a scale of one to 10?
R - I want to believe they’re a little above five! (...)./.
First of all, I would like to thank the Russian Federation and China. Proposing to hold an Arria-formula meeting is very rare on their part. I notice that this is becoming a habit on the Syrian chemical file. I just regret that today’s meeting is reduced to a disinformation exercise.
Let me first of all recall the obvious: at the root of today’s discussion is the very simple and plain fact that the Syrian regime, in August 2013, gassed 1,300 men, women and children to strengthen its military hand. And this is not disputed by anyone.
Since then, sarin, chlorine and other chemical weapons have been used and continue to be used, in Syria and elsewhere. The re-emergence of chemical weapons in the world, and not just in Syria, is one of the most serious threats we face today.
That is why I regret that every time the Assad regime is incriminated, systematic efforts are undertaken to protect it, to sow confusion and paralyse international action. In 2017, the renewal of the Joint Investigation Mechanism, the JIM, was blocked three times by a veto. Today, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team is being discredited under the guise of a so-called scientific expertise because it is doing precisely what the international community expects of it: it is investigating incidents and identifying those responsible in a fully professional, impartial and independent manner. Its report published on 8 April on the chemical weapon attacks in Latamneh is particularly damning for the regime’s air force units.
In 2013, the Syrian regime committed itself to cooperate in transparency and good faith with the OPCW. And it must be said: the regime has not kept its word. It is high time for it to shed light on the state of its stocks. At France’s initiative, the OPCW Executive Council decided last July to give Syria 90 days to redress the situation. There is still time. We call on Syria to cooperate without delay with the OPCW Secretariat and to reveal its military chemical programme.
Twenty-three years ago, the OPCW was created to be a pillar of our collective global security. It has proven its value. It is disgraceful to seek to discredit it on the pretext that its conclusions are not consistent with the version of the facts that Syria and some permanent members of the Security Council want to give.
The use of chemical weapons is a crime that threatens all humanity. As you know, it is also a threat to international peace and security, as this Council unanimously stated in its presidential statement from November 2019. There can be no impunity. This is why we support the International Independent and Impartial Mechanism and this is why France is leading the international partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons. All countries that so wish can join this partnership, which is neither an anti-Syrian instrument nor a club of countries. Through this commitment, they will demonstrate their commitment to the law, international stability and justice.